Atomic Roundtable: Harlan Ellison 1934-2018

One of the most incisive and compelling observers of the human condition, Harlan Ellison passed away in his sleep last week at age 84. Everyone who ever met him has a Harlan story, to the point that being in his presence was usually referred to as “witnessing the ‘Harlan Live’ show,” and we here at the Junk Shop are no exceptions. Here are a few.

‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ – The ‘Citizen Kane’ of Schlock Sci-fi

When Star Wars exploded on movie screens in 1977, it elevated sci-fi out of the low-budget B-movie ghetto in a way that 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes had tried to do and didn’t quite achieve. While those two films had the spectacular visuals, humanist allegories, and deep thoughts about the meaning of man, they lacked the slam-bang action of a great 1940s Flash Gordon movie. Star Wars showed that people would go for big dumb fun, and the race was on for the next one. In the years that followed, many studios attempted to join the “Me Too” Chorus, with Star Trek grabbing the high-end market and the original Battlestar Galactica locking up the TV audience. The low end was filled with cheesy movies featuring clumsy alien make-up and iffy blue-screen effects. 30-odd years later, one movie stands above them all as the greatest film in the crowded “cheap Star Wars knockoff” genre: ‘Battle Beyond the Stars.’

Byron Preiss: An Appreciation

Byron Preiss was a writer, compiler, editor and publisher of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and graphic novels. As a fan of those genres, as well as comics and pulp fiction, among other things, he tried to innovate ways to present and publish similar materials for a wider reading public – something he did throughout his life.